A Mom's Weekend Tribute For A Mother With An An Edge

I was on my way to bed thinking that I might catch the end of the Mariner's game before falling to sleep. Instead, I stopped at my desk and searched the web for my daughter's weekly column in the WSU Daily Evergreen. It's Mom's Weekend at WSU and Cindy is there with the twins to enjoy some time together. I had a hunch that Abby may have written a special column for her mom this week. I wasn't disappointed. This is what I found.

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Abby Student | Daily Evergreen relationship and sex columnist 

Writing For Mom: The Only Opinion That Matters.

I have been in a serious relationship for more than 20 years. She's an older woman, but age is just a number, isn't it?

As a sex and relationship columnist, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the many different relationships in my life and evaluate their importance to me. This week, I had the privilege of reflecting on the most important relationship in my life: the one between me and my mother.

Abby and Cindy

In my 20 years of life, my mother, Cindy, has given her children unwavering support, perspective, protection, and motivation, among many other things. 

In her 54 years of life, she has worn several hats, including student, friend, bartender, nurse, single mother, and probably the most pervasive, midnight snacker. She is unbelievably witty and stubborn, but remarkably empathetic and sweet. She is the perfect contradiction, which makes her an outstanding nurse practitioner and matriarch of our family.

From age 12, my mother knew she wanted to be a nurse. When she graduated from nursing school in 1983, she went into pediatrics where she has stayed for more than 30 years. She dedicated her life to helping sick children in both physically and as an advocate when they aren’t able to speak up for themselves. She is a weekday warrior at Seattle Children's Hospital and a hero to her very core.

Unfortunately, two years ago she was forced to switch roles. In the spring of 2012, my mother transitioned from caregiver to patient when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Luckily, doctors found it early and scheduled a double mastectomy for the following month. During this time, she squared away things at work and celebrated her final hurrah in classic Cindy style with a "Goodbye to Cindy's Boobs" party with her coworkers.

While in surgery, doctors discovered swollen lymph nodes under her arms and sent a biopsy away for testing. No more than a few days later, doctors informed my parents that my mom had another form of cancer: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. After a couple second opinions, a trusted oncologist recommended a prolonged chemotherapy treatment to shrink several tumors throughout her body. Over the next six months, she received a dosage of chemo every three weeks. She spent two days hooked to a machine, the remainder of that week in bed with ungodly nausea, and the following three weeks back working at the hospital. Now finished with the bulk of her treatments, she tries to keep the details regarding her health to herself. She doesn't spend too much time worrying about it and encourages us to do the same.

During school breaks, I can always count on finding one or both of her prosthetic breasts somewhere around the house. She is the only woman I know capable of occasionally "losing a boob," and she does so with an unforgettable, goofy smile on her face.

In this two-year medical journey of hers, the underlying soundtrack has been laughter. Despite losing a vital part of her womanhood and sacrificing her overall health, her sense of humor and tough attitude have been the only constants I’ve seen. Her ability to see the irony, laugh, and learn in every situation inspires me to be better. When my academics, extracurricular activities, or work get the best of me, she never fails to widen my perspective. I often hear her voice in the back of my mind repeating her five favorite words: "Don't sweat the small shit."

This motto has been the backbone of my writing these for the last few months and has ultimately kept me going in spite of both positive and negative remarks from members of the WSU community and national websites. I have been both condemned and encouraged for writing about the subject matter that I do.

That being said, regardless of what readers think of my writing or me personally, I want them to understand something. When faced with losing someone or watching them struggle through physical pain, everything else pales in comparison. At the end of the day, moral convictions, conservatism, and ideas regarding what should or should not be published in a college newspaper are not matters of life or death. Therefore, I do not put much stock in them.

Last month I wrote a column about anal sex that ended up on the Colbert Report. When things began to heat up in the aftermath, the first call I made was to my parents. They were elated. Although I saw my national recognition as positive, it didn't occur to me until later that other people might consider it negative publicity for our university. After a small audience of people came out with unsavory comments, I asked my parents whether they wanted me to stop writing. I needed to know whether it was embarrassing them back at home.

Needless to say, they weren't. That's why I'm still here. The day that I shame my parents, more specifically the most beautiful and bravest woman I know, I will stop writing. Until then, I urge you to "live and let live." It’s set me free.

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  • Patricia Belyea
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    For Abby,

    I know your mom Cindy and loved reading your column about her. All your descriptions are so right on—Cindy is a remarkable and generous soul.

    It was about this time last year that we all met in Victoria BC—you, your mom and your twin. I was caring for my elderly dad who was battling cancer. He is gone now and it makes me very sad. Your wisdom "don't sweat the small stuff" rings so true.

    BTW: your writing is compelling and vivid.

    Thanks, P.

The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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